Arizona Cardinals defense is closer to greatness than you think

Sion Fawkes
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 25: Running back Rachaad White #29 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rushes the football against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on December 25, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. The Buccaneers defeated the Cardinals 19-16 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 25: Running back Rachaad White #29 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rushes the football against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on December 25, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. The Buccaneers defeated the Cardinals 19-16 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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While the Arizona Cardinals defense has given up 391 points this year, they are better than those totals show, and close to becoming a great unit. 

The Arizona Cardinals defense has looked stellar at some times, and overmatched in others. But when you really break things down, this defense is much closer to becoming an elite unit than you may think.

When you look at returning players, and even impending free agents I expect the Redbirds to re-sign, you may realize they aren’t full of so many holes. Here is a quick rundown of notable players who should return (including impending free agents):

  • Zach Allen, DE
  • Isaiah Simmons, LB (I’m listing Simmons at LB, despite the fact he plays in multiple spots)
  • Zaven Collins, LB
  • Myjai Sanders, Edge
  • Budda Baker, S
  • Jalen Thompson, S
  • Marco Wilson, CB
  • Byron Murphy, CB

Allen and Murphy would need to re-sign, but the players listed above should be keepers and sound contributors heading into next season. One name I’ve mentioned is Myjai Sanders who saw his snap counts steadily rise this season.

Arizona Cardinals defense is close, close, close

One major position of need is edge rusher. While I like Sanders, he hasn’t shown that he can be a game-changer. The Cardinals desperately need to spend a first round pick on one, assuming Sean Payton isn’t in their war room in April’s draft.

They also need a sound defensive tackle, which is another option the team can take toward the top of the draft. However, I would rather see them get the edge first, then find someone to plug the middle later on.

Corner is also a position of concern. While I believe the Cardinals will retain Murphy, his back issues could pose a problem. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if they zeroed in on cornerback.

Losing J.J. Watt in retirement also hurts, but the Cardinals could fill his void in free agency. If they can sign a couple of defensive ends, then odds are, the Redbirds have at least a stopgap for the foreseeable future at the position.

Related Story. Few Cardinals have improved as much as Isaiah Simmons. light

With such few holes to fill, and if the offense can get a rhythm going next season, look for the Cardinals defense to be, at worst, a top 15 unit. At best, they could threaten the top five.

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